Bulls' PG overhaul complete, but are they better?


Bulls' PG overhaul complete, but are they better?

With the addition of Nate Robinson formally announced this afternoon, the Bulls point guard mixing and matching of an off-season seems to have come to a close.
The additions of Robinson and Kirk Hinrich through free agency came after C.J. Watson and John Lucas III left for Brooklyn and Toronto, respectively. The writing may have been on the wall for both after the team drafted Kentucky freshman Marquis Teague in June.
And while the position will act as more of a stop gap until the main attraction, Derrick Rose, is ready to return, replacing Watson and Lucas with Hinrich and Robinson were still important moves.
Watson and Lucas combined for 4.8 win shares a year ago, seeing increased roles in place of Rose, who missed 27 regular season games. Hinrich and Robinson, who started a combined 40 games, totaled 4.6 win shares. So while each pair's win shares were almost identical, Hinrich's and Robinson's defensive numbers from last year were much worse. The pair averaged 107.0 points per 100 possessions allowed, while Watson and Lucas averaged just 101.5 points. Hinrich has always been a solid defender, but Robinson leaves plenty to be desired as an offensive-minded shooter. That may have to change under Thibodeau.
Offensively, Robinson and Hinrich averaged 105 points per 100 possessions, while Watson and Lucas averaged 104 points of their own. Each pair combined for similar offensive numbers, with the incoming point guards averaging slightly better numbers in about 12 more minutes per game. Robinson is the streakiest shooter of the four, and Hinrich is likely the most efficient, so with scoring at the position being an issue early in the year the Bulls appear to have improved some.
Money apparently was not too big an issue at the position, as Watson (2 years, 6 million) and Lucas (two years, 3 million) will make only slightly more than Hinrich (2 years, 8 million) and Robinson (one year, likely veteran's minimum).
While it may not seem like it at first glance, the Bulls' defense at the point guard position takes a hit with this year's moves. A key could very well be how well the athletic Teague can acclimate to the NBA game, and potentially see time on the court early.
The Bulls are in good hands with two seasoned veterans in Hinrich and Robinson, and any contributions Teague makes can be viewed as an added bonus. But whether or not the back court is better off with those two instead of Watson and Lucas is something that will be watched closely until Rose comes back.

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

The Bulls are currently playing their best basketball of the year, winning four straight, including three against Eastern Conference contenders.

How will Fred Hoiberg's group continue this pace during a daunting March schedule? Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski break it down from the Advocate Center in this edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

Check it all out in the video above.